The most exciting tournament in sports needs no introduction. But I’ll give it one anyway, not because it needs one, but because it deserves one … March Madness is here! And that means the national gross domestic product is about to grind to a halt as every man, woman, and child gives their undivided attention to college basketball. Leading up to the tournament, I’ll be going through each region with my final four pick, sleeper team, and bracket buster. Today we focus on the West region.
Final Four Pick: Duke Blue Devils (#4 seed)
In a relatively weak West region, where every team is vulnerable, I’ll put my money on the best talent. And Duke is stacked, with possible future #1 overall pick in the NBA draft Brandon Ingram, stud guard Grayson Allen, and yet another Plumlee brother patrolling the paint. The talent is not only on the court, as they also have one of the best college basketball coaches in the history of the sport, in Mike Krzyzewski. They only go about 6 deep, and struggled at points this season, but the combination of top talent and top coaching is too much to ignore.
Sleeper: St. Joseph’s Hawks (#8 seed)
St. Joseph’s has a veteran laden team, led by senior forward Isaiah Miles (18.2 ppg, 8.0 rpg) and junior forward DeAndre Bembry (16.9 ppg, 7.8 rpg, 4.5 apg). They don’t turn the ball over, hold opponents to just 29.5% from three, and allow few second chance opportunities. In other words, they don’t beat themselves. And in a region where every top team has been prone to lapses this season, a veteran team that limits mistakes can be a problem.
Bracket Buster: VCU Rams (#10 seed)
VCU and St. Joseph’s are both on the border between “sleepers” and “bracket busters.” I’m really not sure what category to put them in. Maybe a new category, “sleeping busters,” would be more appropriate? Or maybe not. Either way, the Shaka Smart-less Rams still play their signature style of swarming defense, ranking 16th in the nation in defensive efficiency. They force turnovers, shoot 36% from three, and pound the offensive glass. Senior guard Melvin Johnson (17.8 ppg, 39.5% 3-pt) is their lone offensive standout, but this team feeds off their defense. We have seen VCU make a run before, and the opportunity is there for them to make some noise again.
By Michael Halpern
Twitter: Imaginary Brick Wall (@ImaginaryBrickW)